Over Christmas and the New Year, when many of us were enjoying time with our families, the efforts of our public service workers is especially inspiring.

It was a pleasure to join the team at the Mass Vaccination Centre at Cwmbran Stadium as a volunteer, to work alongside them and see the fantastic work they’re doing to help people stay safe.

Drop-in clinics continue to be held, so please go and get vaccinated if you haven’t managed to yet, to help protect yourself and those around you, and to help ease the pressure on our NHS.

NHS workers have rightly been cited as heroes during the pandemic, but so many others also deserve that tag. Yet often the work they do to help others goes under the radar, as much of the work done by council staff is confidential or behind the scenes.

Take the work of our Revenues and Benefits team in Torfaen.

Over Christmas, they’ve been working on the fuel vouchers scheme to get money to people who need it to pay rising bills, developing the latest grant scheme for local businesses impacted by the pandemic and processing record numbers of self-isolation payments. They’ve paid out discretionary housing payments to local families going through a tough time to help them stay in their home, preventing peoples’ lives being turned upside down and saving public money in the long term.

They’ve worked with partners, both within the council such as our Financial Inclusion, Housing, Communities for Work and Business Support teams, and with outside partners who provide so much help, like Housing Associations, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Age Connects Torfaen and many others.

Take Jane, a local parent working but struggling to pay the bills after a new arrival and having to take unpaid time off in late pregnancy. With their help she’s managed to pay off her mortgage arrears.

Or Bridgit, who escaped domestic violence and needed their advice and support to deal with her financial situation.

Or John, a care-leaver who lost his job and lost control of his finances. With their support he’s now back in work and paying back his rent arrears.

I’ve changed the names above, but these are not hypothetical situations. All these cases could have resulted in personal crisis and homelessness. Instead, people are given a chance to piece their lives back together, with the support of dedicated public servants and others in our communities.

The late, great Desmond Tutu talked about the need to go upstream and find out why people are falling in the river, rather than just pulling them out. We need to do more of that as public services. Together, that’s a challenge we can meet.

If you need to apply for Discretionary Housing Payment or find out more about how to apply for other financial support, including Free School Meals and council tax reduction, you can visit the Torfaen website. If you would like support in finding a job, or changing your jobs, our employability and Communities for Work teams can help. For any queries or concerns, you can contact our benefits team on benefits@torfaen.gov.uk or telephone 01495 766430.